It’s that time of the year when I get to take a deep breath and begin to look forward into the next year, trying to determine where my path will lead next. It’s never an easy time doing this, trying to see change of some sort in the work especially after so many years of being what I am and painting as I do. It always comes down to the same question:
What do I want to see in my paintings?
That seems like a simple question. I think that any degree of success I may have achieved is due to my ability to do just that, to paint work that I want to see myself, work that excites me first. So I have been doing just that for most of my career, painting pictures in colors and forms that I want, or shall I say, need to see. But there is another layer to the question:
What am I am not seeing in my work that I would like to see?
That’s a harder question. How can you quantify that thing that you don’t know, might not even have imagined yet?
It might be a case of knowing it when you see it. I know that my first real breakthrough was like that.
I was a beginning painter simply fumbling along. Even then I knew I would never be a great craftsman following in the long tradition of fine art painters and I had little interest in showing the world or people in any sort of exactitude. I saw it then and now as way of painting the unseen. But I wasn’t able to visualize in any way what that unseen might be at that point. I found myself looking for something that nagged at the edge of my mind, something that called out to me from just out of reach. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, had not a concrete idea of what it might be. It was just there in a gaseous form that I couldn’t quite grasp.
But when that thing finally stepped forward into view on my painting table and revealed itself in a tangible form– which is the painting at the top here, First View, from 1994– I instantly knew what it was that I had stumbled on and that it was something that very important to me.
It might not look like much to the casual viewer now but in an instant I could see in this little painting the completeness of what I had been sensing in that gaseous, hazy form that hovered at the edges of my mind. I could see a full realization of all of the potential in it, in the present and shooting forward into the future like a strong beam of light. Even now, after years of evolving from it, I can see how it connects to everything in my work, even those things I had could not yet see when I painted it.
And that’s where I find myself at the moment. There’s something out there ( or in there, I probably should say) that I want to see, might even need to see. But I don’t know what it is yet. But I will know it when I see it.
And, trust me, I do plan on seeing it.